Bob Dylan´s Gospel Years Part 5: Saturday Night Live Performance

In the autumn, Dylan made what many found a surprising appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live” on NBC-TV on October 20, performing three of the songs from the album, backed by five musicians and three female gospel singers ( and looking, despite the fire- and -brimstone lyrics sung, strangely tame: almost domesticated).
-Michael Gray (Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

He sang three songs that night. The least memorable was the first, a reluctantly delivered “Gotta Serve Somebody,” complete with a botched lyric. The other two — a passionate acoustic “I Believe in You” and, finally, a proselytizingly blazing “When You Gonna Wake Up” highlighted by searing support from Terry Young (organ) and Fred Tackett (lead guitar) — remain transcendent to this day.
-Villagevoice (Saturday Night Live’s Forty Essential Music Moments, Ranked)

Previous posts in this series:

NBC Studios
Studio 8H
New York City, New York
20 October 1979

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar)
  • Spooner Oldham (keyboards)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Terry Young (keyboards)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Regina Mcrary , Helena Springs , Mona Lisa Young (background vocals)
  1. Gotta Serve Somebody
  2. I Believe In You
    Click on video to start
  3. When You Gonna Wake Up
    Click on video to start

God don’t make no promises that He don’t keep
You got some big dreams, baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep

When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up
When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

  • Live debuts of all three songs. These songs opened all shows during the first and second Gospel Tours.
  • Broadcast by NBC-TV, 20 October 1979 in the program Saturday Night Live, season 5, episode 2..
  • Hosted by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.
  • TV recording, 18 minutes.

..the rehearsal for Saturday Night Live happened on the set. The way they did it back then was mid-afternoon you’d come into the studio so the cameraman could get a fix on where you’re standing and you actually played what you were going to do that night, for the crew mostly. Then you do it a second time, a song or two, later that afternoon and then the third time is the live one. So we actually rehearsed on the set. Even though we’d rehearsed the songs in Santa Monica.
-Spoone Oldham (Scott Marshal interview 1999)

As a final warm-up for what promised to be the I966 tour plus God, Dylan and his slimmed-down touring band flew to New York on October 18 to perform three songs from Slow Train Coming on the popular late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live. Seemingly at pains not to crack anything that might pass for a smile, all three performances stood out from the body satirical. His last national TV appearance, the John Hammond tribute, by comparison had been positively loose. An uncharacteristically clear-eyed Dylan now harped on about those trying to drive him from town, having recommitted himself to singing uncomfortable ‘truths.’ The performance gave fair warning, to a huge audience, that the Vegas Dylan was a long time gone.
-Clinton Heylin (Behind The Shades)

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3 thoughts on “Bob Dylan´s Gospel Years Part 5: Saturday Night Live Performance”

  1. Egil, after what transpired on Friday, Jan. 20th, I think we are all going to need more posts like this one. Keep up the good work, and thanks.

  2. 2nd & 3rd videos missing here – but great (partial)1st vid. (Gotta Serve Somebody)

    Thank you

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